Mathabane learns within a few months that his whole neighborhood is full of “refugees” like his parents, black people without their passbooks in order. His father is arrested again, and the family again goes hungry. Mathabane starts begging for food, which infuriates his mother. When she catches him begging, she tries to beat him, but he is too quick for her. Instead, she tells him that witches live all around them and might give him “voodooed food” that will poison him. This story terrifies Mathabane so much that he stops begging or taking food from strangers.
Despite Mathabane’s mother’s growing Christian faith and Mathabane’s own resistance to tribal customs, his terror indicates that such beliefs and traditions still exert a powerful control over him, shaping his view of the world. This also suggests that such beliefs are useful for parents, allowing them to wield control over their children through fear and superstition.